Clay Plaster Workshop in Denmark
We’ve completed our stay and workshop in Denmark and are now in Finland, just outside of Helsinki staying with Irish transplant Paul Lynch, his wife Charlotta and children. It’s a change, at first glance more modern, similarities to the States, design oriented which means many more Apple computers than other countries in Europe that we’ve visited. Trees everywhere, they grow here like weeds at home, water, lakes and surprisingly drier and warmer than Denmark even though it is further north. For now, that’s all for Finland and back to Denmark.
Long trip from home to our bed just outside the town of Aarhus in the small community of Friland. Plane, train and bus combined for 30 hours, more or less without sleep.
Simply put, Denmark is wet. When it rains, it is simply more wet than normal, but it makes for a beautiful landscape. It’s fall so grain and straw we’re being harvested, green pastures support livestock of various kinds. We’re centered in the town of Feldballe, which in addition to being home to the Friland community has a wonderful old section containing traditional buildings some of which date back to the 15th century.
Friland is a big story, a mortgage free community with lots of experimental and alternative building happening. Too much to write about, but a visit to their website will tell more: //www.dr.dk/dr2/friland
Our hosts as with our visit to Friland before are Lars Keller and his Australian wife Jo Morandin. They are the ones who take care of organizing our workshops and itinerary in Europe. Organizers and workshop hosts extraordinaire they are in every respect.
As in various European communities a common feature of many homes is a vegetable garden.
Another interesting component of the community is the sewage treatment. Each individual house transfers its sewage to a septic tank and then instead of a leach field, the black water is run through a filtration bed consisting of willows to purify it.
Children in particular with their white blonde hair stand out like brightly colored flowers in the grey/green landscape.
As with all our workshops, we usually take a tour of something of interest relevant to the workshop. We paid to a visit to Willem Oskham of Holland, who also maintains a place in Denmark. He is a manufacturer of compressed soil block machines, vertical shaft mixers and clay crushers of extraordinary quality. Not only do they surpass other similar machines in quality and durability, they are extremely fuel-efficient. His beautiful garden, coffee and cookies make for a wonderful afternoon. I’ll write a separate post on him later as his work is fascinating. He is currently involved in more than a dozen African countries providing low cost housing.
Our workshop participants were mostly Danish with the exception of 5 Australians, who were basically there almost by chance. The other exception was German clay builder/plasterer Michael Von Reith, who really didn’t need to be in the workshop to learn anything, but since we had stayed with he and his wife Tatjiana two years before, they came to see us and help in the teaching.
As always the group of participants in always made up of a number of fascinating people. As a sample, I’ll introduce you to young Lars Erik, who introduced himself as a bartender, which at first thought, fits a certain stereotype, but his fascination with perfecting the 30’s cocktail, revealed creativity outside the norm.
As for the workshop, we had a building of approximately 400 sf, 40 square meters that had a minimal amount of plaster work. As usual, the building in it’s current condition pretty much determines what we will be able to do in the workshop. This one was obvious, a base coat of plaster to cover all the exterior walls, a middle coat for the interior walls, a clay floor, demonstrations of finish clay plasters, a carving by Athena (as always) and in this case, an unplanned last minute clay oven. It was a lot to accomplish on what you might describe a somewhat rough pallet.
Michael Von Reith, as a clay builder from the European traditions, gave a demonstration on how he plasters with clay in that his techniques are somewhat different than ours. Normally he sprays the first coat of plaster, but in this case, he did all by hand. We took a video of him plastering if it is of interest to you: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQWocYbEyQ4
One of the most special things about doing this type of work in Denmark is the clay, it’s marvelous. The clay we used is dug from a brick factory quarry near Aarhus.
Ovens always make for a quick and fun workshop experience. This one, including the base, took a day to build. We created the sand mold and clay walls after lunch.
The work for the week was satisfying, I feel we left the building in much better shape than we found it, ready for finish plasters inside and out.
The carving Athena did with a number of the participants was beautiful as always, I even managed to find time to squeeze in a polished clay finish sample.
A couple of quick notes on the plaster and floor formulas for those who were in attendance at the workshop.
Base coat plaster – 1 part clay paste, 1 part sand, 1 ½ parts chopped straw.
Middle coat plaster – 1 part clay paste, 4 parts sand, 1 part chopped straw.
Floor mix – 1 part clay paste, 5 parts sand, ½ part chopped straw.
As with my posts from Denver, the photos are all done with the iPhone. It’s turned out to be an incredible device that is always handy for use, capturing moments that would otherwise vanish. Being able to process the images on the phone for uploading to the web is also a great time saver. Furthermore, it’s really simple and not complicated to use, if you are at all tempted, go for it and don’t hesitate.